Vajpayee to appeal to MPs, MLAs to back Shekhawat
Even as former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and NDA convenor George Fernandes are sending an appeal to all MPs and MLAs to vote in favour of NDA-backed independent nominee Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Shekhawat too has decided to pick up the phone to call up as many of the 4896 members of the electoral college as possible.
Shekhawat has installed separate phones for this purpose, and his aides have ensured that he is on the line most of the time. Shekhawat has not complained yet that his phones are tapped though his spokesperson Sushma Swaraj has taken up the case concerning her phones.
"He is speaking to the MLAs and MPs who are in the UPA. That is his democratic right to seek votes in his favour. This cannot be called as a bid to encourage cross voting, and in fact there is no cross voting in the presidential poll as the candidates do not have party symbols and there is no whip," said Sushma Swaraj, spokesperson for Shekhawat.
Swaraj said UPA nominee Pratibha Patil was free to do so to reach out to the MPs in the NDA-fold, rejecting Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi's charge that Shekhawat was misusing his position to call up Congress MLAs.
Shekhawat is likely to declare his assets on Friday. The declaration will be posted on his personal website. He had made known his decision to come out with such a declaration on his own came after senior BJP leader LK Advani's plea to the Election Commission to ask Presidential candidates to disclose their assets. The EC, however, rejected it saying it was not empowered to deal with the issue.
Swaraj accused Dasmunsi of having used "unparliamentary" language by dismissing her allegations of phone-tapping as "rubbish and foolish." She also accused Union minister Renuka Chowdhury of arrogance for her comments that the NDA leaders were not too important to be wiretapped. Chowdhary had said: "Why should we tap them. Are they so important? "
Swaraj said a BJP panel led by Arun Jaitely would decided on how to go about registering Shekhawat's managers' protest with the EC on the issue of phone tapping.